A two-edged sword. That is what the Spanish government’s obsession with stopping Catalonia’s independence vote has turned into. The third batch of data from ARA’s opinion poll carried out by Institut Opinòmetre over the days following Catalonia’s National Holiday —once the referendum had been called by the Catalan government and banned by Spain’s Constitutional Court, as Madrid was firing up its machinery of repression— shows a drop in the expected turnout on October 1, but a widening Yes lead. Specifically, a majority of respondents still state that they intend to cast a vote in the referendum (51 per cent), whereas a further 9.2 per cent say they just might. The combined percentage is 60.2 per cent, which is still a high number when you consider that respondents were aware that the Constitutional Court had declared the referendum illegal. In June and July this figure hovered around 64 per cent (64.2 in June, 63.9 in July).
In contrast, the gap between Yes and No has kept widening over the last three batches of interviews. At present, 44.1 per cent of Catalans claim they would vote Yes in the referendum, with 38.1 per cent against. A blank ballot would be the choice for 3.9 per cent, while 13.9 per cent remain undecided. In June the Yes camp led by 3.4 points (42.3 vs 38.9), rising to 4.1 points in July (41.9 vs 37.8) and all the way to today’s six-point lead. The gap is far greater than the poll’s margin of error and the advantage for independence support appears to be firmly consolidated.
The survey shows that Madrid’s campaign is having little impact on Yes voters, who intend to go to the polls in very large numbers (96.2 per cent), but it has hit the No camp: presently, only a fifth of those who oppose independence (21.7 per cent) say they intend to vote, as opposed to a third (35.7%) back in July. The poll indicated that October 1 will see a landslide Yes win, with at least 69.9 per cent of the vote, whereas 14.3 per cent will vote No and 2.5 per cent will cast a blank ballot. As it stands today, 13.3 per cent of the electorate intend to cast a vote, but are still undecided, so their ballot would add to either the Yes or No.
Impact on socialist voters
Examining the finer details of the opinion poll provides some interesting clues to understand the current situation. The poll shows that Madrid’s crackdown strategy and the messages sent by the parties that oppose the referendum are putting off voters. For instance, the number of PSC voters who are prepared to cast a ballot on October 1 has dropped dramatically and some Comuns sympathisers, who were willing to vote when asked in June and July, are now reluctant. Panic-mongering is also having an effect on people in the 55-74 age group who live in towns with a population greater than 50,000: that’s the traditional profile of socialist (PSC) voters in Catalonia.
Nevertheless, respondents aged 35-54 who live in towns or villages of 50,000 people or less are equally or even more willing to go to the polls than they were earlier. This is where independence supporters have their stronghold. Cross-matching data shows that some Comuns and PSC voters in those areas are shifting their allegiance toward the majority secessionist camp, as a consequence of Spain’s offensive. This means that Yes voters are predominantly left-leaning (80 per cent of independence supporters claim to be centre-left, left or far-left).
This increase in support for secession runs parallel to a rise in the number of people who favour a referendum, which stands at 70.7 per cent, two points higher than two months ago. In order to get the full picture, respondents were also asked about what the Catalan government ought to do now that Spain’s Constitutional Court has banned the ballot. 51.9 per cent answered that the Catalan authorities should forge ahead regardless, 35.5 per cent believe that they should abide by the ban while 12.6 per cent are undecided. This shows that the desire to break through the Spanish legal framework is shared by some who, strictly speaking, do not support independence.
The data available paints a picture of a society composed of four concentric circles, all of which oppose the current laws: the first circle includes 70 per cent of people who are persuaded that the Catalan conflict can only be resolved through a referendum; 60 per cent of Catalans form a second circle: those who will vote on October 1; then there is a third circle of people (52 per cent) who are prepared to ignore the Spanish Constitutional Court and, finally, 44% support a Catalan Republic. If that is not a state crisis, it looks very like one.